Have you tried to drive into downtown Salt Lake recently? Well, take my word for it. THE TRAFFIC IS TERRIBLE. Traffic will do that — turn all terrible whenever you throw major Christmas light displays into the downtown mix. Which is why I am offering you the following tip: Drive around with a highly noticeable dent somewhere on your car.

It doesn’t matter where the dent is — front bumper, rear bumper, left door, right door. Just make sure your car looks as if it’s wandered into a fancy party with a black eye, greasy jeans and a T-shirt with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve.

Take my car, for instance. We purchased it this time last year. Even though it was used, it looked brand new. Clean. Shiny. Dent free. If my car had been in a beauty pageant for cars, it might not have been crowned queen, but it definitely would have been chosen as one of the queen’s attendants. First attendant, even.

And then a few weeks ago, my car and I were involved in a fender bender, which is all you need to know about the incident, because the details are not important. But whatever. That’s not the point. The point is that now I’m driving around town with a side door that looks as if it’s had a run in with — oh, I don’t know — a truck, maybe?

Which brings me back to that tip I started sharing with you at the beginning of this column. If your car has a dent in it, other drivers view you and your car as a threat to them and their cars and thus make it a point to stay away from you.

Speaking of which, I have a friend who is terrified whenever she is required to drive through the Avenues neighborhood in Salt Lake City. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Avenues, please let me explain. There is no rhyme or reason to the placement of STOP and YIELD signs here. None. Which means that drivers often stop when they should go or go when they should stop. It’s totally counterintuitive. You know. Like driving in New Jersey, which was something I was required to do when we lived in New York. The thing about driving in New Jersey is this: You have to turn right to go left and turn left to go right.

Please keep this in mind if you ever have to drive in New Jersey. So there’s another tip for you right there. You’re welcome!

Anyway. Back to driving in the Avenues. This friend is so rattled whenever she drives here that she has taken to turning on her hazard lights when she visits. Why? Because people give you a really, really wide berth when you drive around with your hazard lights flashing — the way they did when our family contracted viral hepatitis and the health department strapped bells around our neck and made us shout “Unclean! Unclean!” to warn others whenever we approached them.

Turns out a dent in your car has somewhat the same effect as flashing hazard lights! And also viral hepatitis! The effect isn’t as pronounced, maybe. But still.

OK. Now that I think about it, this may not actually get you downtown to see the Christmas lights any faster. It’s not as if everyone will decide to turn around and go back home when they see you and your dented door coming. But at least you’ll have the comfort of knowing that everyone will be happy to give you a little bit of space while you get there.

Happy holidays! And I hope this helps!

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ann Cannon